Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Doin’ Nothin’? Nothin’ Doin’!!!

Jeff Foxworthy was playing a comedy club in Detroit, if I have the story straight, and was, as usual, being given the gears about being a Redneck (he is a Georgia State native). The comedy club was next door to a bowling alley with valet parking. It occurred to Jeff that many people might be Rednecks but just didn’t realize it and so “You might be a Redneck” was born.

I posted a picture implying that retired menfolk might occasionally do “nothing”. Rob-Bear took umbrage at the suggestion (I didn’t even know I had umbrage and he went and took it). So it seems to me that some folks don’t know when they are actually doing “Nothing”.

I’m not going to start my own comedy line here but one of the simplest ways to tell if you are doing “Nothing” is if you are enjoying the activity but your spouse* wants you to do something else. YOU might be watching the game or walking the dog but if your wife wants you to take her shopping or to mow the lawn then you are doing “nothing”.

Freudian slip – I wrote “souse” the first try.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Blast furnace

Today was warm, about +15 with a 40 kmph wind howling, so we decided to burn the brush pile across the lane from our house; the accumulation of tree removal, pruning and what have you. We piled cardboard from our care boxes against the windward side of the pile, soaked everything with three litres of kerosine and threw a match. Did it burn!!! Like a blast furnace.

Tanya had a garden fork she was using to keep the pile together so it would all burn. The fire was so hot she burned her face red. Went in the house and rubbed lotion or something on it . By night the redness had died down but it scared us. She finally let me use the fork and it was fast work to move the branches onto the flaming coals and get out before my pant legs caught fire.

Tonight there was nothing left but a few grey ashes.

The brush pile in the back garden was still too green to burn, even with wind and kerosine so we'll leave it for fall. We started digging the edge of the garden close to the vacant lot and picking quack grass roots so they would not creep farther into the garden. Now I know why everyone uses a fork instead of a spade to dig their gardens here. The spade just chops up quackgrass roots and makes many more baby quackgrasses. I want a litre of Roundup!

We collected Masha after Kindergarten at 4:00 pm and she spent the rest of the evening playing with Maxim who was visiting his Baba Lucia next door. The kids went over to Lucia's to play and Maxim was not going to let us take Masha home at 8:00. He was going to keep her.

It started raining on the way home. Tomorrow I continue my task of doing nothing.

For Joe, Rob and the Rest of Us

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Catching up

Yesterday we went to Krivyi Rih to shop at the new Epicenter which is a huge Home Depot style store. It was the first time I had driven any distance in quite a while and KR has not gotten any easier to find one's way around. The city is more than 100 km in length (between 114 and 147) with only one way through it end to end, like a maze. No signs, of course and fortunately no or very little traffic. Our neighbour Zhenia went along for the ride and gave directions or we never would have arrived at all. The trip exhausted me. Just the highway alone was enough to do that.

When we got home, we picked up Masha who was coming for the night (a historic first). She and her Babushka have had a pretty good time as she is refusing to go home. She also spent much time playing with the dogs and got her jacket dirty enough I am sure her mother will never let her come here again. We just took the dogs for a walk. Masha is unhappy that I did not let her throw stones in the water by the bridge but if she got wet...

We bought 50 raspberry bushes and five more currant bushes from our neighbour Natasha. She and her daughter Dasha and daughter's boyfriend Sergei came over to dig them in. While they were here, Tanya got the boyfriend to cut down a couple more apple trees, transplant three sour cherry trees into our garden from the vacant lot next door and dig in an apricot tree we bought this morning at the market. He was also able to burn off the vacant lot that was too wet last fall to catch. Good afternoon for Tanya. She got lots done just by supervising.

My Chiropractor

There are roughly 220 registered chiropractors in Dnipropetrovsk, a city of 1.7 million people. Anatoli is not one of them. He was taught by his grandfather who was taught by his grandfather. I did not know this when I first went to him over two years ago, on the advice of Roman's partner Lena. I just thought it odd that he that he held a full time job somewhere, which we had to work around.

He practiced from his home, with nothing more than a blanket on the bedroom floor for me to lie on. He was excellent, far better than some of the "Massage-type" chiropractors I had been to here in Ukraine who didn't ever snap me into place. (Ideally a chiropractor treatment should be followed by massage).

Once he finished adjusting me, he held his hands lightly on my back and I was amazed by the heat generated but thought it was simply part of the treatment. Then he spoke at some length to Tanya about what I should do - exercise, lose weight, the usual. When I asked what we owed, he said to give him whatever I thought was right. Again an oddity.

I was back to see him three weeks ago and again Friday. Again the light touch of the hands on my back after the treatment and the amazing heat generated. This time, I knew what he was doing, as Tanya had told me more of his background. Part of his training from his grandfather was the passing on of a gift of diagnoisis, NOT healing, but simply describing any problems in a person's body and recommending treatment. Also, if he charges for his work, he will lose the gift. He can only accept what people offer.

He told me to either lose the lard or suffer the heart-sequences. Maybe I will listen.

Winners of the last contest

This is the end of my Sunday Contests. Entries have dropped off so interest has also. Many thanks for the great captions. By the way, according to an article in the Regina Leader-Post,
Studies suggest the sight of a cute animal can stimulate the same neurological pleasure centres as those aroused by chocolate, sex and psychoactive drugs. That likely accounts for my sister who sends me all these cute pictures.

Put me in coach! I want to play! from Grammie

This chair is lumpy. from Demeur

This is payback for not being walked enough. from Rob-Bear
Sending a Pee-mail (honourable mention from my brother)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Wallpaper for my kids' computers

My kids say they miss me. So, my children, if you download this picture and set it as wallpaper, you can be reminded of me all day long. I have it on my 22" screen and it makes Tanya crazy but she does say she sees a family resemblance.

The Buzzard Has Landed

Today I got my long awaited permanent residency passport. A simple piece of cardboard stock (which we will laminate) with all appropriate stamps and signatures on both sides and the worst picture ever, though Tanya says it does look like me. The most important function of this passport to me is to allow me back into the country should I leave for any reason such as visiting my family or vacationing in Georgia. Otherwise, having been here in Ukraine for six months I would have to stay out for six months.

I am now also officially registered as co-owner of our house and, Tanya tells me, entitled to vote in upcoming elections. Local elections are first-past-the post but oblast and national deputies are chosen from the party lists based on proportional representation. Prospective deputies jockey for position on the list by buying their way onto the list of their party. Those highest up the list are guaranteed a seat and immunity from prosecution for life. Do I want to vote?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Thanks for the Mammaries

A couple of weeks or so ago, Sherry at Ex Marks the Spot was promoting crafty quilted bras while Violet on Miserablebliss was complaining about underwire bras poking about.

I thought perhaps I could bra-den the appeal of my blog with some observations of my own. No, not the speaker implants because men are always looking at women’s breasts and never listening to them but more in keeping with discussions on Rob-Bear at Desert Epiphanies, I will itemize four types of religious bras. There may be more. Readers are invited to contribute.

Roman Catholic bra – upholds the masses
Presbyterian bra – for the staunch and upright
Salvation Army bra – to lift the fallen
Baptist bra – makes mountains out of molehills

Monday, March 23, 2009

Gardening begins

Today we began work in the garden. Which is to say I raked leaves and hauled branches from the yard while Tanya raked half the kitchen garden. There are two words for garden in Russian:
"Sad" is a flower garden or orchard, the kind of garden featured in "Better Homes and...". The Russian word for Kindergarten is Ditski Sad or children's garden. The other garden is "Ogorod" or kitchen garden, vegetables and such.

The mutts and I strolled along the marsh today for the first time since winter. I took a new plank with me to put across the one low spot where I get my shoes wet and muddy. There had been an old board there but it has rotted away. There were pretty yellow flowers blooming so tomorrow I will take pictures. This was the fourth walk in a row that the dogs did not run off but went peacefully back into their pen with help from their liver sausage treats. The stuff costs about $4 per kg at the grocery store and they love it. Kids and dogs can usually be bribed into good behavious. Emphasis on the word usually.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sunday Caption Contest 220309

Last Sunday's Contest Winners

Some very good entries on last week's pictures. Thanks so much. Hard to chose just one best so I doubled up in a couple cases. Someone wondered about prizes. (I mean, besides being given prominence on my blog with its daily readership of an entire 25 people...Thank you... Thank you very much. I love you all). Hadn't really thought of it. I knew this contest was missing something.

Al's Scotch really is great! Rob-Bear

That's the last time I ask for a poodle cut. Demeur
I will punish you for this. May-B

Ok, I'll take the right and you circle around from the left, we'll jump him. Airman Mom
"So, that's what 'outside' is!" Grammie
Why do we always end up in here after they do that? Give us AIR! The Wisper

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Polly Wanna Cracker?

Yesterday it rained so we went shopping. Tanya needed jeans so we went to our favourite store “Kansas” which caters to the blue jeans crowd and carries stuff in our sizes too. She got two pairs of jeans, I got a couple of dressier belts than I’d been wearing (when I find them big enough to go around, I buy them), a pair of soft brown Levi cords and a Tanya-approved Wrangler cowboy shirt. Sum total: US$100, CA$125.

Most of their clothes are made in Turkey, where I know there is a Levi factory. The cords carried the usual LEVI stamps on the inside, assuring us that the company had been in business since 1850 and had been supplying quality copper-riveted jeans to the world for 630 years. That is a bit like my “Genuine Certitied” Rolex that I bought for $40 in Silk Alley in Beijing.

Today was warm and sunny. The dogs were curled up together in the sun, sheltered from the wind and acting like they had NEVER entertained thoughts of killing each other. They had been in lock-up for three weeks since their last bloody bout and had behaved like angels the whole time. I took them for a walk Thursday and they behaved completely. While I was sitting on my half-way bench for a rest, Volk even came when I called him and allowed me to pet him. And when we got home, both dogs came for their treat and went into their pen like little lambs. Same again today. Twice in a row doesn’t make a trend but does make a nice change.

Tonight Masha called and invited us to come and visit for the evening. She had apparently been quarreling with her parents and wanted someone on her side. So we got there about 7:00 pm and entertained her or she us for a couple hours. She had a big cardboard box on the bed that she could play inside and was shouting and screaming till I threatened to send her to Canada. So she got a cushion and I threw it into the box trying to bean her with it. Then she got her books so I read Green Eggs and Ham to her while she sat on my knee. It had been a long while since I read that book.

After that, she got out her toy parrot which now had batteries. The parrot repeats what you say to it. If you say “Awwk (whistle) Polly wanna cracker?”, it repeats back in a parrot voice, while flapping its wings “Awwk (whistle) Polly wanna cracker? Awwk (whistle) Polly wanna cracker?”

This reminds me of one joke that always made Ella laugh no matter how often she heard it. Sailor takes a girl up to his room to show her his parrot. To get the parrot to talk, he says, in time honoured fashion, “Polly wanna cracker?” The parrot says “You crack ‘er, Mate, you brought ‘er home”.

Friday, March 20, 2009

New meds for women

D A M I T O L Take 2 and the rest of the world can go to hell for up to 8 hours.
St. M O M'S W O R T Plant extract that treats mom's depression by rendering preschooler unconscious for up to six hours.
E M P T Y N E S T R O G E N Highly effective suppository that eliminates melancholy by enhancing the memory of how awful they were as teenagers and how you couldn't wait till they moved out.
P E P T O B I M B O Liquid silicone for single women. Two full cups swallowed before an evening out increases breast size, decreases intelligence, and improves flirting.
D U M E R O L When taken with Peptobimbo, can cause dangerously low I.Q. side effects include enjoyment of country western music.
F L I P I T O R Increases life expectancy of commuters by controlling road rage and the urge to flip off other drivers.
M E N I C I L L I N Potent probiotic for older women. Increases resistance to such lines as, "You make me want to be a better person ... can we get naked now?"
B U Y A G R A Injectable stimulant taken prior to shopping. increases potency and duration of spending spree.
B U Y E M A L Extra Strength. When combined with Buyagra, can cause an indiscriminate buying frenzy so severe the patient may even come home with a Donnie Osmond CD or a book by Dr. Laura.
J A C K A S S P I R I N Relieves headache caused by a man who can't remember your birthday, anniversary or phone number.
A N T I-T A L K S I D E N T A spray carried in a purse or wallet to be used on anyone too eager to share their life stories with total strangers.
S E X C E D R I N More effective than Excedrin in treating the, "Not now, dear, I have a headache," syndrome.
N A G A M E T When administered to a husband, provides the same irritation as nagging on him all weekend, saving the wife the time and trouble of doing it herself.
W R O T R I N Makes you think you've written long, interesting e-mails to all your friends and relieves you of any guilt over the fact that you haven't.
A M B I T O L Housework, reports, essays, gardening and other unwelcome chores are done miraculously overnight while you think you are sleeping.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Too Pooped to Whoop

I saw Too Pooped to Whoop on a First Nations baseball cap one time and thought, "Man, you know exactly how I feel". That is how I feel tonight, too and why there will be no decent blog.

Tanya and I made a flying trip to Dnipro this morning regarding document screw-ups on my Permanent Residency application. More on that another time, just to say now we think we sorted it out. I love it when Andrei drives. 140 kmph. HE can deal with the cops, if we are stopped. If he hits a pothole, his mother doesn't yell at HIM.

Fired off the second draft of my report tonight along with the invoice. All is well that ends. It is 10:30 and I am going to bed. Spokania nocha...good night.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Luck o’ the Irish

Into a Belfast pub comes Paddy Murphy, looking like he'd just been run over by a train. His arm is in a sling, his nose is broken, his face is cut and bruised and he's walking with a limp."What happened to you?" asks Kelly, the bartender.
"Riley and me had a bit of a foight," says Paddy.
"That little runt, Riley?" says Kelly, "He is just a wee broth of a man. He couldn't do that to you, he must have had something in his hand."
"Ay, that he did," says Paddy, "a shovel is what he had, and a terrible lickin' he gave me with it, too."
"Well," says Kelly, “you should have defended yourself, did you no ha' something in your hand?"
"That I did," said Paddy. "Mrs. Riley's right breast, and a foine thing of beauty t’was, but of absolutely no use in a foight."

Pat and Mike had a great weekend partying and all. Pat felt guilty and decided he should stop at the church and confess. He went into the confessional and said, “Father, I have sinned. I have committed fornication with a lady. Please forgive me.”
The Father said, “Tell me who the lady was.”
“I can’t do that Father. I’d never betray a lady’s trust,” said Pat.
“I cannot grant you forgiveness unless you do. Was it the widow Mollie O’Grady?” asked the Father. “No.”
“Was it Rosie Kelly?” “No.”
“Was it that red-headed wench Tessie O’Malley?”
“No. Father, I tell ye, I’ll no betray a lady”
“Well then,” said the Father, “You’ll not be forgiven.”
Mike says to Pat, outside, “So, did you find forgiveness.”
“No,” says Pat, “but I picked up three good prospects!”

Monday, March 16, 2009

Masha pitches Grandma

The long slow curve...
Yesterday, our clever little Masha called her Babushka ostensibly to recite some new rhymes she learned. The kid has in incredible memory for rhymes and can "read" her entire ABC book which has a 4 to 8 line rhyme on each page. So she impressed Baba Tanya with her new poems.

...followed by the fast break over the plate.
"Basbushka, my toy parrot needs new batteries. Papa won't go and buy them. Mama won't go and buy them. I need them today. Will you go and buy them for me?"

Tanya's response might be paraphrased as "Today? Not likely".
At which point Masha says "I will phone Baba Natasha".
Tanya said to Masha, "Do you remember the poem about the bad little girl who never listens to her mother"? Masha says yes and recites it.
Tanya says "That is you".
"I'm not talking to you any more"...click.

So today when we were in town we stopped and bought six batteries for her parrot. We figure it is part of Andrei and Tanya's punishment for being parents.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sunday Caption Contest 150309 edition

This week's contest features cats.
Winners will be posted next Sunday.
Thanks for last week's excellent entries and looking for more entries this week.

Last Week's Winners

You are not my cousin (Demeur)

I was here first! (Airman Mom)

I demand a DNA test (Dana at Life is Good)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

With Apologies to Kris

Well, I woke up Saturday morning with no way to hold my head that didn’t hurt;
From drinking too much coffee, trying to force my tiny pinhead brain to work.
So I brewed myself a litre of the foulest blackest stuff you’ve ever seen
And I went up to my office and I fired up my Intel Inside machine.

Then the lights went out in Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkey too.
And it shut down my computer. What the hell I’m gonna do?
And there’s nothing, even crying, keeps the week from going ‘round.
Saturday morning’s line repair time, here in Marianivka town.

It rained last night the gardens wet, so Tanya took the car to Krivii Rih.
Andrei drove her shopping so the house was left to Kuchma Cat and me.
I settled in to work to get this paper done sometime before I die.
The pages flew and I could see at tunnel’s end sunshine and some blue sky.

Then the lights went out in Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkey too.
And it shut down my computer. What the hell I’m gonna do?
And there’s nothing, even crying, keeps the week from going ‘round.
Saturday morning’s line repair time, here in Marianivka town.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Christmas in March

Our two care boxes arrived today, many thanks to my kids. My large pictures for our large empty wall spaces. Books, magazines, food (maple syrup, molasses, worchestershire sauce, parmesan cheese), ziptop freezer bags, gifts, lots more stuff and my Rita MacNeil Christmas CD's. Which I immediately played. And played.

There is a company called MEEST (Ukrainian for Bridge) which delivers care packages into Eastern Europe. It costs $125 CAD for 30 kg (max. box weight) delivered right to your door. Usually less than 6 weeks door to door.

We had pancakes for supper. I shall make cookies tomorrow. Roast beef with real gravy, too. Now that we have shipped it over here, some of these items will soon be available in Ukrainian stores. Hah! (Murphy was an optimist).

Now I am going to bed. I have 50 pages of my report done and another 20 to go plus formatting and editing. Maybe tomorrow...Right now my brain is dead. I opened and closed Internet Explorer three times before I remembered why, that I was going to write my blog for the night.

Just one question, though. What is and what do you do with a giant red crinkle fish?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Are there any news?

Not a new.

I cannot recall the people (editor and reporter) involved in this famous exchange so would appreciate help. I googled "are there any news" and got 59,000 hits. half of which used it correctly as in "are there any news groups?" while the rest merrily and ignorantly butchered the Queen's English.

Around here there isn't a single new either. Tanya planted her green onions as she promised and then pruned the grape vines back to the third node on all green branches. This year they better yeild again. She also cooked two huge wonderful meals for me. A five-egg omlette for breakfast and a pork stew flavoured with dill for supper. Her drapes will be ready tomorrow and she will need help in hanging them when I need a break.

Right now I am running on strong black coffee but making progress. Two chapters almost completed and two to do tomorrow, along with the exec summary, T of C and all the lists. Accronyms are killers as they are totally jargon and incomprehensible to anyone outside the field. The best ones are UNDP GEF SGP and USDA FAS GAIN. The rest are more normal, though there is an IENICA and a CEEC.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Tomorrow I will plant green onions

It was warm enough this morning and the sun was bright. The tulip beds are fairly bursting with shoots. Tanya put on her coat and slippers (so she wouldn't get her shoes muddy) and started cleaning up her flower beds at the front of the house. Just what she could reach from the walk. But she informed me tomorrow she would set out some onions for green onions for our salad. She is getting garden and yard fever. I know what that means...

This afternoon I drove her into the city to check on her drapes, then we picked up Tanya and I dropped them both off at Kindergarten to collect Masha. The three of them spent from 3:30 until 7:00 walking in the park, shopping, having tea and cake in a little restaurant and in general enjoying the day while I worked on my report.

Rob-Bear says students and dogs need to be trained to do it on paper. Consultants too.

Kuchma is enjoying spring too. He disappeared for three days, then came home today and couldn't decide if he wanted in or out. Meow, come in, eat, meow, go out. Meow, come in, meow go out. Must be spring.

God Bless Texas

The following are actual quotes from Texas politicians sent to me by my friend Sandy. The only name I recognized was Jim Hightower who was Texas Agricultural Commissioner some 30 years ago. He does have a way with the English language.

Texas Rep. Joe Salem speaking on an amendment requiring all revenues to go into the state treasury: “It just makes good sense to put all your eggs in one basket.”
Texas Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower: “Ain’t nothin’ in the middle of the road but yellow stripes and dead armadillos.”
Texas House Speaker Gib Lewis to a group of handicapped people in wheel chairs: “And now, will y’all stand and be recognized?”
A. C. Greene: “Dallas salutes a person who can buy a piece of art, but not a person who can create one.”
Texas Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower when told that Texas Governor Bill Clements had been studying Spanish: “Oh good. Now he’ll be bi-ignorant.”
Texas House Speaker Gib Lewis defending himself against the charge that he would personally profit from a bill he had introduced: “I’d just make a little bit of money, I wouldn’t make a whole lot.”
Texas Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower discussing President George Bush’s policies: “If ignorance ever goes to $40 a barrel, I want drillin’ rights on that man’s head.”
Texas House Speaker Gib Lewis during a budget hearing: “I move we recess to go outside and throw up.”
Texas House Speaker Gib Lewis: “There’s a lot of uncertainty that’s not clear in my mind.”
Don Rottenberg: “There are still places where people think that the function of the media is to provide information.”

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Panic time or why do anything before the last minute?

The report MUST be finished Friday. It is only 6 months late, however the meltdown of the global economy in the meantime, makes it academic at best so the delay was not the end of the world for the client. Besides I work cheap and usually give them twice what they pay for.

My kids have inherited my work habits. Put it off until you can't any longer. My creativity works better under pressure and so does my kids'. Their mother always did everything ahead of time and the rest of us drove her crazy. I have on several occasions hauled a kid to class at 8:30 to drop off a paper due at 8:30. Said kid then returned to bed having not slept for 24 hours.

Number 1 son would have everything read, and then mull the ideas over in his head for days, writing and rewriting the paper mentally while appearing to do nothing. Then at some early hour of the morning before, he'd sit down at the computer and crank out his paper. One night, back on the old 386, he woke me up in a panic. The computer ate his paper. Dad to the rescue. Dug out the recovery program and found it easy enough but it was scary.

Flash drives make it easy to back up work but how often do you remember to do it?

Today we took a break and went into town. Tanya took the material for our downstairs bedroom drapes to the custom draperist (is that a word?). She had measured out everything yesterday and had drawn up a plan. Then we bought two pillows for which they would make covers to match the drapes.

Ran into Andrei, Tanya and Masha out shopping. Baba Tanya took Masha into a shop to buy her a small key ring with a heart on it. While we were in there I bought my FOURTH French Press coffee maker. The least one managed to last two days before I broke it. The previous one a week. Everything needs to be made out of steel!! Don't they know that?

While we were downtown, one of the clothing shops phoned my Tanya. Spring/summer jackets were in and she had one that might fit me. $70 CAD later, I finally have a light jacket that fits. Size 64. 64 what I don't know but that is what it says. Laid flat it is as wide as the mains'l on Jack Aubrey's HMS Surprise.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

International Women's Day

Today, March 8, is International Women's Day. This may come as a shock to most North American women unless they are part of the fish needs a bicycle crowd. I called Lyn last night just to talk and wished her happy Women's Day. She'd never heard of it. I learned about it some years back in Ukraine when I was yelled at for not sending congratulatory greetings to a translator friend, now in Moscow. It is a big deal here, I can tell you. Bigger than Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, Secretary's Day all combined. Flower and gift shops do a roaring business; phone lines are jammed; grocery shelves stripped and visiting and feasting abounds throughout the land.

Tanya was cooking from 10:00 am to 3:30 pm because she had invited Andrei, Tanya and Masha to celebrate. I went for more groceries and then made cornbread (Johnny Cake) and banana loaf, both by popular demand. We had enough food for 10 people as always and dirtied every pot and dish in the house, some at least three times. Roast chicken, fried fish, mashed potatoes topped with a pork stew gravy, green salad and some kind of beet salad. Appetizers were little open face red caviar and smoked salmon sandwiches (that was my gift to Tanya who loves the stuff but finds it usually unaffordable).

Maxim was over visiting his grandparents next door so Masha could hardly eat, wanting to go and play. Just as we finished eating, Maxim and his father showed up to say they were headed for home. Masha was absolutely heartbroken. Five minutes later Lucia showed up with Maxim; if we gave him a ride home he could stay and visit. Ecstacy all around. Those two are so cute together, play so well and are obviously smitten at ages 5 1/2 and 8. We gave everyone a ride home a couple hours later.

Sunday Caption Contest 080309 edition

People, especially my sister, love to send me pictures of animals that make me go "Awww, that is so cute". I save all of them and posted two last Sunday for captions and got some very good ones. Today I have three pictures concerning rabbits. Next Sunday I will post the winning captions and give you three more pictures. Waiting a week saves me from missing late entries.

Picture 1

Picture 2

Picture 3

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Our Man in Havana

Kostia is one of hundreds of free-lance taxi drivers in Kyiv. He sticks a little yellow sign on top of his car and he is a taxi*, picks up fares, negotiates a price and off they go. We met him in January 2006 when he picked us up at the airport and took us to a hotel for the night. As usual with Tanya after a 30 minute cab ride she knows all about the driver, his family, his problems, his ambitions and his political views. We got his mobile number so he could take us to the train station the next morning.

He has become our regular driver and "fixer" in Kyiv ever since. He meets people at airports or trains for us, finds us apartments to rent, and looks after us whatever our transportation needs. When Lyn came to vist a year ago, I had my pocket picked on the Metro. Kostia bought replacement train tickets, paid the rent on the flat and got his money back as soon as Lyn arrived and I could hit her up for it. (What are childen for if not to rescue idiot parents?).

Yesterday (Friday) I went to Kyiv for a meeting about some work. Wednesday, when the meeting was called, we drove to P'yatikhatki and bought my ticket TO Kyiv but there was NO return tickets on any trains. Friday nights are bad as all students are going home after classes. Tanya called Kostia.

Kostia knew people who have automatic reserved seats and could be persuaded to part with a ticket. Don't ask. We had to pay him double 'cause he was the man in charge but it was still cheaper than an overnight. No matter how much I tip Kostia, I am certain he never makes wages for the time and effort he puts in.

He is a good person. It kind of redeems my faith in humanity to find such, once in a while. Maybe they are not so rare but sometimes it seems so.

* "Call me a taxi". "OK, you're a taxi".

Thursday, March 5, 2009


There is a jewelry store in Zhovti Vodi which sells good quality (as in genuine gold, diamonds etc.) merchandise. I bought Tanya a pearl necklace there for Christmas. She was happy.

The store was held up yesterday by two robbers armed with pistols.

Security was an old man with a small trenching shovel. He took a bullet in the leg and one in the chest, the latter stopped by his bullet proof vest, and still put one robber in hospital with a shovel to the face. The other guy got away by car.

Don't mess with old guys with shovels and military experience. They keep coming.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


Our neighbour Lucia is exhausted. Lucia’s mom is on morphine finally so at least is able to sleep. It is just a matter of time. The old house on the other side of us will soon be empty again, likely forever this time as it is old and run down, like its two previous residents.

I have always been afraid of dying. Not being dead, but the final process. Slow and painful is not fun. And what does the final moment feel like when one’s “soul passes from this life to the next”? I hope I go fast. Preferably at age 107 from a .357 between the eyes, fired by an irate and jealous husband.

Lately I have been wondering about the next life. How does one spend eternity? Never mind where but how? Dead is a long time.

One school of thought is “Fade to Black”. There isn’t anything on the other side. Like turning off the motor on the old Ford, parking it in the bush until it rusts into the ground. I don’t much like that view as life itself then seems so pointless.

Another notion that has a good number of followers is that we are recycled into another body and keep on trucking through time. (Reintarnation is when you come back as a hillbilly). I like that idea. I like to think in a past life I was a horseman of the Steppes, though there are some who suggest I was just part of his horse.

Those who insist on blowing themselves up in the name of Allah and jihad are convinced there will be a small herd of virgins waiting for them in Paradise. No appeal whatsoever to me. First, virginity is highly over rated; chastity is its own punishment. Second, virgin what? Wool? Olive Oil? Hereford heifers? I would want to see the fine print.

The Christian ideas of Heaven and Hell are the least appealing, at least as normal described from the pulpit. Spending eternity in a lake of fire as punishment for sins real and imagined but to what purpose and what end? And what do you actually do there? Work a 15 minute shift every three months shoveling coal? To hear some folks tell it Heaven is reserved for a select few (Christian Republicans). Since I don’t hate Jews, homosexuals, abortionists, immigrants, different skin colour than my own, poor or sick people and anyone who does not subscribe to an extremely narrow interpretation of scripture, I certainly needn’t worry about qualifying anyhow.

Seriously, what in H.E.-double hockey sticks, is Heaven like, that one would want to go there? What will a person do? The thought of sitting on a cloud and watching over those I care about and being unable to intervene sounds more like Hell than Heaven. Regardless it is only good for maybe 100 years and then you don’t know them anyhow. 7th cousins and great-great-great grandchildren are not exactly of immediate concern. Reuniting with loved ones will be great for a coffee and a few days to catch up and then what?

And of course, the gold streets, wings, harps (“Welcome to Heaven, here is your harp”. “Welcome to Hell. Here is your accordion”) halos and hymnals may appeal to some but not me. For the best description of Heaven I have ever read, I refer you to Mark Twain “Extract from Captain Stormfield’s Visit to Heaven”.

A preacher is working himself up to a frenzy and demands of his congregation “All those who want to go to Heaven, stand up”. Of course everyone stands up – except for an old guy in the third row. The preacher glares at him. “Everyone who wants to go to Hell, stand up”. No one stands up. “And you, Sir, where do you want to go?” “I don’t want to go anywhere. I like it here”.

Me too.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Weekend Guest

My friend Brent from Manitoba was here for the weekend. Brent and his wife Barb went with Tanya and I to Crimea back in June 2007. He was back in Ukraine with the FARM project for two weeks so we snagged him for a couple days. I took the minibus in to Dnipro on Friday morning, went to see my chiropractor there and met up with Brent after the day's meetings.

Brent and I had supper with Tim who had just flown in from Riyadh and SE Asia. He had picked up a cold in Kuala Lumpur and food poisoning in Karachi so was looking forward to a weekend to sleep before meetings on Monday.

I slept over at Roman and Lena's, picked up Brent at the hotel at 8:00 a.m. and by 11:00 we were home in Zhovti Vody. We had a quiet weekend and I put him on the train for Kyiv this morning, all rested up for another week of meetings. Then he and Barb have two weeks holidays in France before flying home on separate airlines. (Royalty?)

Brent was a Farm Management Specialist before his retirement and he and I shared a flat in Kyiv a few years back while teaching a three week course at the National Agrarian University of Ukraine to specialists from all over Ukraine. We even went to see "La Rigatoni" at the Kyiv Opera House. What a great time we had for two operatic novices. We followed the program in English and Ukrainian or we'd have had no idea what was going on.

Our flat had a toaster which worked if you held the lever down. Brent and I still being farm boys at heart, rigged a fix for it. The kettle of water kept the frying pan in place while the bottle of coke on the frying pan handle held the lever down until the toast was done.

Sunday, March 1, 2009